Azuka Okwesili writes on persistent power failures in communities covered by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, positing that EEDC is a failed project
Many people supported the idea of privatisation of the distribution arm of PHCN because of the belief that it would make power distribution more efficient. However, the contrary appears to be the case.
In my area, we have not had light for two weeks. As it stands, we are not sure when the light will be restored.
Yesterday, I had a meeting with a friend of mine living in Ngozika Estate, Awka. I noticed the light did not blink, I told him that I envy his Estate and that for over two weeks we have not had light in my own place. After a throaty laughter, he said that ours was better and that Ngozika Estate has not had light for almost one month. Many people in the Estate have lost hope in the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) and have resorted to the solar option.
We spent the next 30 Minutes discussing about EEDC and concluded that it was a big failure. What I saw as pathetic was that while our problem was due to a faulty transformer, Ngozika’s own case was due to a faulty Circuit breaker. So, an Estate as big as Ngozika would be denied light for a month because of simple circuit breaker? Is the management of EEDC aware of this? This is not only embarrassing, but a definite statement on the failure of EEDC. Confronted with this type of situation, a serious company must punish those responsible for bringing the name of the company into disrepute. Circuit breaker is among everyday parts in an electric company that are always in the warehouses.
Just like myself, my friend insisted that the heart-breaking aspect of EEDC is that at the end of the month, they will bring the same bill. In December, my friend said, the Estate did not have light cumulatively for more than 13 days, yet his bill was N9000. From all deductions, EEDC enjoys estimated billing because it offers them the latitude to bill people what they did not use. He said that a few of those residing in the Estate that use pre-paid meters do not use more than N2000 per month. What a rip off by the EEDC? We know distribution companies only distribute what is generated, but the question here is the appropriateness of their billing.
Why is getting pre-paid meter difficult for distribution companies? Why does Federal Government allow them that liberty to be crucifying the people? Why have the electricity regulation agencies and the Ministry of Power kept silence over this? Does it mean they are not aware of what is happening? Why would our people insist in making life difficult for the people? These are necessary questions.
Another example of the failure of the EEDC is what my Obe community in Agulu suffers today. We make use of community meter and our monthly average bill is N200,000 which we paid religiously.
In September 2016, EEDC brought a bill of N800,000 to us. You know as much as I do that even if EDCC recorded 200% increase in power to us, that bill is not justified. Either the meter is faulty or somebody was trying to be mischievous somewhere. We went quickly to pay our usual N200,000 and pronto to the EEDC office at Ekwulobia for complaint.
They insisted they would not listen to us until we paid the last kobo. As this was going on, our light was already disconnected and a further bill of N400,000 brought to us. We met the then head of Ekwulobi office, one Mr. Ifeanyi and he insisted we must pay the last kobo. Our humble request that they should come and look at the meter at our expense (transport and other logistics) for the possibility of being faulty was rebuffed. Imagine, for over four months, a village did not have light because of the wickedness of EEDC people.
This January, we decided to get in touch with the Enugu office. A man from our town, sympathetic of what we were undergoing refereed us to one Madam Ijeoma Ogudebe as one of the good and dedicated staff of the EEDC. Some people from our village spoke to her on phone and some were delegated to meet her in their office at Enugu. We have done all this. In fact, they said they had referred the letter we wrote to Ekwulobia office for attention. Surprisingly, the last time our people went to Ekwulobia, they said they had not received the letter. This is where we are.
With this, one does not need a soothsayer to tell one that EEDC is a badly run company. They need to be closer to the people, especially their faithful customers. If my village has faithfully paid their bill over the years and had this bitter experience as narrated, a good company would have since got to the roots of the matter. A good company, going by our past records, would not even cut our light until investigations are completed. How else would they repay us and people or companies like us for our loyalty over the years? I think EEDC needs more than an overhaul.
– Okwesili wrote this piece from Anambra State University, Uli